Described as a ‘cowgirl mafia’, the four founding members of Sophia’s Oasis for Equines in Port Republic, Maryland, have made it their goal to give the most difficult horses a genuine shot at the good life. It all started with the rescue’s namesake, Sophia, a lifetime broodmare that someone wanted to euthanize. Four women thought different and took Sophie under their wings. “She was an old standardbred,” recalled Jackie Flynt, Vice President of S.O.F.E. “Everyone thought she should be euthanized, but we would not give up.” Sophia thrived and lived well into her 40s. Seeing the difference they made in Sophie’s life the women decided to go big or go home.
“We made the decision to become a rescue while standing around the barn aisle with Sophia,” said Jackie. “Each of us are really good at different aspects of training.” Most of what they see are behavioral issues. “Bucking, rearing, biting, you name it, if you can think of a horse problem that’s what we get,” said Jackie.” For these kinds of horses S.O.F.E. is often their last chance before being euthanized or heading to slaughter.
By restarting the horses from the ground up, S.O.F.E. turns these horses into good, solid partners. Support does not end when a horse is adopted, if an adopted horse has an issue crop up, the dedicated people at S.O.F.E. will immediately go out to and work with the horse and owner to address the issue.
S.O.F.E. also takes in mustangs gathered off public lands by the Bureau of Land Management. “We’ve now taken nine horses to the Extreme Mustang Makeover – all under saddle,” said Jackie proudly.
“We won’t sugar coat it however.” says Rachel Walton, S.O.F.E’s Adoptions Coordinator. “This is a pretty closed community and we have some horses that do not fit the type people are looking for.” Fortunately, they have good relations with other rescues. “If there are other rescues in our area that can more easily adopt one of our horses we will do a swap,” said Rachel. And if there is a horse deemed truly unrideable S.O.F.E. will work to find a sanctuary or non-riding only home.
S.O.F.E. operates on donations, small grants, fundraisers, discounted hay and feed, and the pockets of the board members who all work full-time jobs outside of the non-profit rescue.
Currently, there are about a dozen horses at S.O.F.E. that are available for adoption or in the process of being trained.
The board members, officers and volunteers at S.O.F.E. are serious about helping horses, and do it with a big helping of laughter and a little self-deprecating humor. As Jackie put it, “At the end of the day it is all about the horse.”